There is no trace of the six Kashmiri labourers who went missing on Tuesday evening in the massively hit snow-locked Warwan valley in Kishtwar district even as authorities tried to mount a rescue mission on Thursday.
The youths were returning home from Anantnag and had crossed the highest Margan Top pass when they lost contact with their families. Massive snow had swept the Kashmir Valley that evening and Wednesday.
Warwan in Kishtwar is accessed through the south Kashmir village of Mati Gawaran and one has to go past Margan Top at 12,000 feet to reach it. But after December, the road shuts for five to six months with five to six feet of snow accumulation.
“We are waiting for the weather to clear so that we can fly sorties,” PK Pole, Kashmir’s divisional commissioner, told News 18. “They should have avoided travelling in the harsh weather as the road remains shut for months and the area witnessed massive snowfall.”
He said the visibility was poor for the choppers to fly. “If it gets better we might carry out a few sorties and launch searches,” he said.
Anantnag district commissioner Dr Piyush Singla is coordinating with police and Army to carry out a rescue operation, but given the topography of the area, it will take several days to throw the road open. “We are trying our best,” he said.
One of the missing persons had called his family at around 7pm on Tuesday and informed them that the group was near Margan Top. It has been more than 48 hours and there has been no information about them, Dr Singla said.
Though Warwan falls in the Kishtwar district, the Anantnag administration by virtue of having access to the road has taken up the rescue operation from the Mati Gawran side. But given that the road lies in 3 to 5 feet of snow, the rescue can be mounted by inducted teams through choppers only, officials privy to the topography of the region told News 18.
The six were working as labourers in Anantnag district and had decided to move to their village on Tuesday morning despite the weather office in Srinagar predicting heavy snowfall in the Valley. Meanwhile, some residents of Kishtwar who are stationed in Jammu asked divisional commissioner Raghav Langar to help in expediting the searches.
This year, the Valley received scant snowfall in the peak of winters, but Tuesday saw liberal and widespread snowfall in the region. The Srinagar-Jammu highway has been shut for the last two days while surface links to Leh, Gurez, Tangdhar and Macchil from Srinagar have been shut for several weeks.